Blog Post

Western Yoga Evolving into More Spiritual Practice

yoga classWith the decades-old fitness era giving way to a new interest in overall health of mind and body, the once " exercise-only" focus of Western yoga is giving way to a deeper interest in the spiritual aspects of the practice.

This article by Carolyn Gregoire at the Huffington Post, chronicles the metamorphosis of yoga in the U.S. from its advent in the early 70's to the current age. Although there have always been "wars" within the yoga industry about how much or how little of its inherent spirituality to include in the average class, cultural changes in the last few years are seeing a rise in interest in its Hindu roots.

As Gregoire states: "With the fitness era giving way to the explosive growth of interest in wellness and mindfulness practices, more and more Americans are taking health and healing into their own hands, and the role of yoga is evolving yet again, making the gradual move from a purely physical activity to a tool for holistic healing. This time it’s not just focused on the body, but also the mind."

She quotes Jivamukti Yoga CEO Celina Belizan who says "there's a level of consciousness and an evolving way that people are talking and thinking. It’s this new language that people are talking in more and more.”

And this new language, which is popular among the "I'm spiritual but not religious" crowd, is attracting students to studios that incorporate the traditional yoga teachings, chanting and meditation techniques.

Philip Goldberg, a spiritual teacher and author of American Veda, told Gregoire that we're becoming a "nation of yogis".

Today's "inward-facing spirituality" (aka the New Age) is fundamentally "a yogic one", Goldberg said.

“People are taking charge of their spiritual lives in a very yogic way,” he says. “That’s changing the face of spirituality in the West.”

I found it very interesting that according to Yoga Alliance, the nation's largest nonprofit association representing yoga teachers, schools and studios, today's yoga instructors are now required to take 20 hours of coursework on yoga philosophy.

The $27 billion a year yoga industry certainly appears to be undergoing a few changes from what it is now - a highly commercialized playground for the wealthier among us who can afford the expensive studios, wardrobe and accessories that go along with this "fitness" practice.

Now it's becoming more spiritual too. In fact, Gregoire titles her article, "How Yoga Became a $27 Billion Industry - and Reinvented American Spirituality."

What a surprise.

Help others to see through the "yoga-is-just-exercise" mantra with our booklet on yoga! (Note: this material has an imprimatur from Cardinal Justin Rigali, former Archbishop of Philadelphia which makes it suitable for use by clergy and religious.)